Beyond Television: The Digital Transition of Public Access
Martha Fuentes-Bautista and channelAustin introduce new metrics for measuring the opportunities and demands faced by community access organizations in the transition to digital scenarios. Taking the case of channelAustin, the study highlights the diverse communities and needs served, providing action items for local decision-makers, strategic planners, and the access community at large.
Supported by a 'Small Grant' from the SSRC, this collaborative project explores the implications of shifting regulatory environment for Public Access Community Television (channelAustin). channelAustin manages three public access stations in Austin, TX, where state laws have removed municipal controls over local cable providers and relaxed or eliminated mandates to fund public access. However, due to its strategic geographic location, renewed technological capacities, and diverse social make-up, channelAustin has the unique capability to link the digital community in Austin, including the Eastside corridor. Working with local stakeholders, state officials and decision makers, and channelAustin producers, managers, and staff, researcher Martha Fuentes-Bautista develops metrics to understand the value of services provided by channelAustin. The research considered four participatory dimensions to develop preliminary measures of performance:
1) public engagement in training programs,
2) public use of production resources,
3) public input in the programming mix of local cable channels and distributions of content through other media platforms, and
4) public contribution to community building and development.
The study finds that channelAustin's Digital Community Media Center continues to serve video production needs of a wide range of (ethnic and social-economically diverse) communities in Austin, with the increased availability of low-cost equipment and free video distribution on the web not decreasing the demand for the specific resources, workshops, mentoring, community, and support that channelAustin provides. Findings from this study will guide channelAustin as it looks to expand its services as a "networked creative cluster or a community media cooperative" via partnerships with local organizations, institutions, initiatives, programs, festivals, civic/cultural events, Austin Free-Net access sites, and the city of Austin. The metrics and accounts resulting from this project can also inform users, practitioners, leaders and decision makers in other communities about the roles of community access organizations and how to facilitate transitions to digital media.
Read the full report here.